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Pakistan cricket players questioned over 'betting scam'

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Media captionPakistan's team manager Yawar Saeed: "No allegations are true until they are proved"

Three Pakistan cricket players have been questioned by police over claims they were involved in a betting scam, the team manager has said.

Yawar Saeed said cricket was not "institutionally corrupt" in Pakistan, and the claims were unproven.

The News of the World claims it paid a middleman for details of three no-balls later bowled by Pakistan as predicted.

A man arrested on Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers has been bailed without charge.

Scotland Yard said Mazhar Majeed, 35, was bailed to appear before police at a future date.

Despite the allegations, the fourth and final Test went ahead at Lord's, with England winning the series 3-1.

The allegations relate to three no-balls delivered by Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif on Thursday and Friday. A no-ball occurs when a bowler oversteps the line behind which balls should be delivered.

Mr Saeed said Mr Amir, Mr Asif and Pakistan's captain Salman Butt all had their mobile phones taken away by detectives.

After the match, Mr Butt told a news conference he and his team-mates had "given our best".

"I would say that everybody in this team has given 100%."

When asked about the allegations against him personally, he said: "These are just allegations and anybody can stand out and say anything about you, doesn't make them true."

Mr Saeed said the forthcoming Twenty20 and one-day internationals against England from 5 to 22 September would go ahead as planned.

Image caption The allegations centre on no-balls bowled by Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif

"As far as I am concerned the one-day series is on, we are moving to the West country and we will play all the one-dayers and the T20s," he said.

The police inquiries come after the News of the World claimed that in exchange for £150,000, a middleman gave it details of three no-balls which players later bowled at the predicted times.

The paper claims that Pakistani players were secretly paid to deliberately bowl the no-balls so gambling syndicates could bet on them and make money.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani said the allegations made his country "bow its head in shame".

He has asked his government's Ministry of Sport to conduct an inquiry.

Pakistan's Sports Minister Ijaz Jakhrani said any players found guilty would face life bans.

"We will take strict action, but first we will have to look at the inquiry report [from the British police] and once it is out and implicates someone then we will give exemplary punishment," he said.

If any wrongdoing was proven, he said "all the players involved must forget to play for Pakistan in the future".

England's victory by an innings and 225 runs on Sunday gave them a 3-1 series win.

But England captain Andrew Strauss said the allegations had "removed the gloss" from his side's victory.

"The mood was rather sombre. Cricket was in the headlines for the worst of reasons," he added.

"I can't really comment on the specific allegations, but clearly it has been a tough day."

Imran Khan, the politician and former Pakistan cricket captain, told the BBC that if the players were found guilty of the allegations they should be made an example of.

"If the players are punished... if they are removed then the game goes on and it will be a warning to youngsters not to get involved in this activity," he told the BBC.

A joint statement issued by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) stressed that no player nor team official had been arrested.

It added: "As this is now subject to a police investigation neither ICC, ECB, PCB nor the ground authority, the MCC, will make any further comment."

The statement said the ICC, ECB, PCB, along with the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, were assisting the police with their inquiries.

The Pakistan High Commission has also asked the British Foreign Office "to allow access to the PCB and PHC into the investigations after the arrest of the British businessman", the Pakistan Cricket Board later said in a statement.

'Bitter blow'

Outside Lord's ahead of the match, cricket fans voiced their reaction to the allegations.

Mark Stevens, 35, from Bath, said: "It's just very disappointing - I'll be wanting my hard-earned cash back if the players turn out to be guilty."

Chris Bowley, a 30-year-old software engineer from Reading, said the action would be "pretty pointless".

"It makes you wonder what we are all doing here," he said. "It is still very early days but it's sad for the sport."

And Pakistan cricket fan Haroon Sheikh said he spoke to Mr Asif earlier in a chance encounter at Lord's and predicted the player and the team were likely to face a critical reception when they returned home.

Mr Sheikh said the allegations were "disheartening" and made him "question the whole sport".

Pakistani cricket journalist Shahid Hashmi told the BBC the scandal had come as a "bitter blow" for the people who had already been hit hard by the flooding that is devastating the country.

He said: "The mood [in the country] is of great anger, disappointment and frustration."

He added that enthusiasm for the national cricket side had been undermined by the scandal, with few Pakistani fans bothering to watch the final day of play of the test series at Lord's on Sunday morning.

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